Tuesday, 27 November 2012

More vehicle problems and fuel at Agadès.

February 10 1953 (Tuesday) Land Mileage 2106
One week out of Algiers and 1372 miles into the desert!   We woke up early, so decided that it would be a good chance to get on our way before it got too hot.   We had been told that it was far easier to drive over the sand in the early morning, when it is cooler and firmer.    We were packed and on our way by 06h15 and by then it was just starting to get light.     We saw a lot of gazelles, which are a fairly small, soft eyed antelope which can run remarkably fast.   
The terrain had changed yet again and Dad had to concentrate more than ever on where he was driving!  One lapse of concentration caused us to have to bring out the sand mats again and we had our daily exercise catching up with a slow moving vehicle!
Sand-mats in use again.
During the process, it became clear that Mum’s head had obviously not recovered completely from the day before, and instead of rolling the mat up, she tried to drag it, thereby collecting more sand which made life very difficult for a short time. I was already in the vehicle and David and Mum managed eventually to catch up and scramble aboard.   The journey continued over patches of very soft sand, with boulders scattered here and there.  

After driving another while, Dad said that something did not feel quite right in the Land Rover's suspension and so, finding as firm a spot as possible to park in, he and David got out to take a look to see if they could find the problem.  The main leaf on one of the back springs had broken, so a decision had to be made what we would do next.   We did have a spare spring with us, but the heat was terrible and with no shade anywhere, changing it would have been extremely uncomfortable.     We continued for a few miles, but Dad was getting worried about the result of continuing and eventually he and David got out and changed the spring in the searing heat.   We decided to push on and reached In Guezzam at 14h30, a place where there was a well; it had no accommodation or fuel, but to our joy, there was some shade!  Tamanrasset had radioed ahead to In Guezzam to let them know when we had left and they were very surprised to see us so soon!  Apparently they expected us to take at least three days to cover that part of the route!   If we had not stopped for Mum's headache, then for Dad and David strip down the water pump, followed by changing the spring we would have been there in only one day.   We managed to get some horrible tasting cold drinks on our arrival, but they were so cold that even the taste could be tolerated! We met an Australian there, who said he was hitch hiking across the desert and was in the process of waiting for the next lorry to come along.   Not the way any of us would like to complete the trip, but we certainly did not have the room to help him on his way!  We often wondered afterwards how far he managed to get.    

After leaving In Guezzam, the sand was again very soft for the next 10 miles with a nasty climb, but after this the track improved with only a few soft patches.   David and Mum had to give a helping push over a few areas, but we did manage not to get really bogged down.   Twenty miles out of In Guezzam, while the road was firm, we decided that it would be a sensible place to stop for the night.

February 11 1953 Land Mileage 2272
We made an early start again, trying to get away while it was still as cool as possible.    The track was very patchy, with some reasonable parts and some very soft areas which Dad had to keep a close look-out for.    The dust was pretty terrible and it got up  noses and into ears; body and clothes became one colour.   We saw several more gazelles, a few camels and what we thought was a silver fox, but it went to ground too quickly for us to get the binoculars out! 
Camel, one of many that we saw here.
There were also a few donkeys wandering around and we saw what we thought to be a very large eagle.   By now the terrain was getting quite scrubby, but there were still a lot of soft sand patches.     We passed a caravan of camels and Arabs who waved us down and they explained in hand signals that they were short of water.   We knew that we were able to pick up water fairly soon again, so we filled up their bowls which they gave to us.   They were obviously very grateful and by way of thanks gave us what looked like very large, wet, white biscuits.   Presumably this was their staple diet while travelling; the biscuits looked anything but appetizing, but we thanked them and continued on our way.   Further along the way, some more Arabs tried to stop us, but we decided that we could not spare any more water as anything could happen and the decision was that we should just keep going.  

As we moved on, the terrain became far more interesting again.   There were certainly a few people around in these remote areas, and there was more to see; however, the track seemed to get no better and, in places, it was extremely bad.    At 16h00 we decided that perhaps we should stop and make camp for the night, giving my father a chance to check over the Land Rover and see that there were no more problems about to surprise us.

February 12 1953 (Thursday) Land Mileage 2475
We had not seen any "frontier" signs, but judging by the large 'bill boards' around - and our trusty AA travel book - we were in French West Nigeria.   The country around us was still constantly changing.     We saw some very large grey birds with long legs and beaks, and thought them to be a species of crane.   These were the first birds that we had seen since starting out in the Sahara, other than what we thought was an eagle a few days earlier. 

Suddenly the Land Rover started to run hot, so Dad removed the thermostat to allow us to complete the remainder of the short distance into the fort town of Agadès.   The note in our trusty Highways Guide said " Hotel, petrol cannot be relied upon.The Commandant of the French Fort will supply aviation spirit if it can be spared". We had a few problems finding our way around the fort, but we finally managed to locate everything and filled up both fuel tanks with petrol.  
Dad and David checked the Land Rover over thoroughly again, successfully sorting out the overheating problem.  
We were lucky, plenty of fuel in stock.
The town had a small store, where we could replenish some of our tinned food stocks.   While in Agadès, we had to report to the Police and Customs.   It was quite interesting that there was a jail there; all the inmates were sitting outside, under guard, making plaited straw mats; presumably for sale.   Someone had to keep the police in uniforms and food!   No speeding fines here.
Not often we were saluted!
They seemed quite sad that we were leaving so soon.
On our way once more, and there were definitely signs that we were out of the desert; there was a lot more growth in the way of shrubs and small trees.   There were numerous types of very colourful birds flying around, which unfortunately we could not identify, as we had no books in which to look them up!  We managed to spot an ostrich which was with its young, but they were on the run before we could take any photographs.    There were a number of people around and we noticed how much darker the skin colour was here, compared to that further north. The people also wore a lot of beautiful ornaments in their ears, noses and around their necks.   The women wore only very colourful skirts with a complete absence of tops; quite a change from the voluminous robes that the Arab nations wore further North.   It certainly made life very much more interesting, but the one thing that did not change was the terrible dust we had to endure, billowing into the vehicle all the time.   The 'road' was very winding and there were still parts which were very sandy; we needed to keep an eye out for markers, as in places the track just did not exist.   A good reason for the availability of aviation fuel, as most people presumably flew to Agadès by small plane.

There were more and more people around; we passed numerous camel trains and herds of donkeys being sent along the way towards the small towns.   At 15h30, we found a nice little grove of trees just off the road and the decision was to stop for the night.   It gave us a chance to check everything out and tidy up ourselves and the Land Rover.   Two animal herds passed by during the night and we could hear people chopping wood, for what seemed like hours.

To be continued :-) 

I have put this section of my life story on Kindle if you should be interested:-


  1. So far, your family has managed to find supplies, repair the vehicle, put up with a lot of discomforts. The two of you, you and your brother must have been delightful children, paying attention, helping out when needed. I feel for your poor mother and her headaches!

    1. rosaria the more I think about it now, I realise just how brave my parents were with two young children to take this trip on. My Dad thankfully was also very organised, and he somehow managed to foresee the things that could go wrong on the Land Rover, sure I sign I would think of a very good engineer :-) Diane

  2. Even though you encountered problems on the road, i I think that it worked out well since you got the chance to see different interesting stuff.

    1. Chubskulit Rose Thanks for the visit and the comment. Hope that all is well with you. Diane

  3. Your "adventure" is becoming more and more fascinating.
    Thanks for sharing Your memories and allowing us to live the chronicle of those days as well as the blood in our veins.
    Best wishes.

    1. Gio Ve It is a pleasure to share my memories, and writing this brings back so many good ones for me Take care Diane

    2. Thank You again.
      Take care of Yourself.

  4. Diane,

    Your photos are truly fascinating. I feel in your story more struggle with the vehicle and your mum's headache. It seems that you are always managing no matter what happens, though, judging perfectly well the situation and possible consequences. Fascinating read. Thank you!

    1. Awena, It is good that you are enjoying 'My Story' as it gives me so much pleasure to write it and track down photos that were not used in the book. Keep well Diane

  5. Beautiful architecture in Agades! Plus wild camels and gazelles, how exciting it must have been for you.

    1. JM for someone who had lived in England all her life I was more than excited to see wild animals around :-) Diane

  6. That sounded like a hard part of the trip, getting bogged in the sand and having to use the mats. The old photos are wonderful. The land sure is stark. Your dad was a clever man to organise this trip so he knew what to expect, and his ability to sort out problems.

    1. diane b, it was hard getting stuck in the sand but it also caused lots of laughter once we got going again. Yes my Dad really had thought ahead and all the problems we had were sorted out very quickly. Diane


Verification free blog but all comments will be modified before publication.
Thanks for reading my post and I would love it if you leave me a comment. I will try to answer each and every one.